The Never Ending Sacrifice
© 2009 Una McCormack
No Star Trek series rivals Deep Space Nine for its moral drama, for its stationary setting meant that characters had to live with the consequences of thir decisions. It told rich stories, and put characters into hard positions. Decisions and their consequences are the theme of The Never Ending Sacrifice, which tells the story of a young boy whose life changed radically when Commander Sisko had to make a hard choice about him, The boy, Rugal, was a Cardassian orphan thought dead by his father, adopted and raised by Bajorans as their own. When the boy’s Cardassian father realized his son was still alive and on the station, he successfully petitioned Sisko for custody. The Never Ending Sacrifice explores the consequences of that decision, as Rugal returns to a Cardassia that will — as DS9’s seven year run unfolds — descend into hell. As Cardassia reels from one government to another, Rugal copes with his homesickness and self-loathing — lashing out against those who want to love him, and courting disaster by seeking purpose in revolution. Ultimately, as Cardassia falls into tragedy — the abyss of the Dominion War, and its eight hundred million dead — a young man surrounded by death finds life to cherish.
My regard for this book see-sawed a bit at first. I was immediately won over by the title, which is that of a Cardassian family epic mentioned in “The Wire”. As Rugal uneasily settled into his new Cardassian life, I was disappointed in the easy “Bad Guy Empire” rendering of Cardassian society, as it seemed less like a coherent state and more of a device to complain about contemporary society. However, McCormack skillfully works in connections to the larger Trek verse that lured me into appreciating it more. Rugal takes inspiration from the words of dissident professor Natima Lang, for instance, who fled Cardassia in “Profit and Loss”; Tekeny Ghemor, the sympathetic reformist gul who was the target of a plot in “Second Skin”, is a constant source of hope — and later on, Rugal’s connections to Ziyal allow him to elicit the help of one Elim Garak. Ultimately, it was McCormack’s ending which fully won me over. Rugal fights the title of the novel by resisting the tendency to pass on old battles to the next generation, and his own decisions to stay or go create a redemptive ending that buried my grumbles. Although this is not quite A Stitch in Time, it’s still very good.